Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


March 8, 2009

Road Use Fee — A Bad Alternative to Gas Taxes

Category: Climate Change,Economics,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:15 pm

Funding for Federal and State highway maintenance mostly comes from gas taxes today. But this started posing a problem last summer when gas prices were high and fewer people were driving, and continues now when fewer people are driving because of other economic reasons. And the average fuel efficiency of vehicles used has improved.

The problem is that less gas purchased means less revenues to maintain roads.

So both states and federal agencies are considering a new way of raising revenues, based on miles driven. Some are even adding factors like the weight of the vehicle and where the vehicle is driven to the formula. (more…)

January 23, 2009

Measuring It All — Beyond Electricity

Category: Climate Change,Conservation,Household,Save Electricity,Save Fuel – Tom Harrison – 7:58 pm

When I installed our real-time PowerCost Monitor, we were able to measure our total electrical usage and see how what we did used electricity. It has had an incredible effect on our behavior. Likewise, the real-time mileage display in our Toyota Prius had a similar effect.

So, now I want real-time energy measurements for several other aspects of our house and life. And I want the data to be aggregated. In an iPhone application (and a web page, of course). And also a display that sits on our kitchen counter-top, like the power cost monitor with a readout. It seems so simple … well, sort of.

Energy Data, Wherefore art Thou?

I think the actual data is obtainable. We use gas to heat our house and to make hot water, as well as for cooking — it’s all carefully metered, but only read and recorded every month. We record all of our expenses for food, and gasoline, taxes, and everything else in Quicken, and most stuff we buy is on a credit card.

Natural Gas

The gas usage is a big one, since no doubt heating and hot water are likely to be the biggest energy consumers in the house. But I cannot currently tell how much gas is used for hot water versus for heat. (more…)

June 22, 2008

Not All Hybrid Cars are Created Equal

Category: Save Fuel,Technology – Tom Harrison – 12:27 pm

It is a wonderful thing that car manufacturers are moving to hybrid versions of their vehicles.

Like many of the incremental features introduced in cars over the years, the good ones catch on. Shoulder belts, air bags, anti-lock braking, and many others have made cars safer.

And now, many cars are available with hybrid engines. This adds to the price of the car a little (or sometimes, it seems, a lot). And a hybrid system makes the car greener, right?

Why, the Chevy Tahoe is the green car of the year if you can believe that. (It costs $11,000 more to get the “green” hybrid version, so the car can get a paltry 22 miles per gallon).

A hybrid system does not make a car “green”, it just makes a car a little less of a bad thing. (more…)

December 2, 2007

Lawmakers Set Deal on Raising Fuel Efficiency (more talk, still no action)

Category: News,Political,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 11:09 pm

Friday, it appears that some additional congressional talking was done about CAFE standards, leading glacially towards a bill that seems to be more likely to pass, despite the car companies’ claims of how badly it would harm their businesses. My observation is that they seem to be more culpable themselves of harming their businesses than any past or present government actions have ever been. (more…)

August 5, 2007

New EPA Mileage Estimates: Much More Accurate

Category: Little Things,News,Policy,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:50 pm

Well folks, no more hiding behind illusions. The EPA has updated the MPG estimates that all vehicles sold in the US are required to display on their sticker. The good news is that these estimates are more realistic, because they account for things like lower fuel economy in cold weather. They also account for things like air conditioner usage, higher speeds on roads (check it out: the site shows an image of an 80 MPH speed limit sign) and faster acceleration — things that have changed since the standards were introduced in, probably 1980 or so? (more…)

December 16, 2006

Check Your Tire Pressure: I Didn’t (My Car Did, Though)

Category: Little Things,Save Fuel,Tips,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:20 pm

Sometimes it’s easy to see that your tires need more air, but it’s far from obvious in many cases. We recently noticed a drop in mileage in Theresa’s car, and I was ready to chalk it up to different gasoline composition in winter that reduces mileage. But I noticed one of Theresa’s car’s tires was noticeably low, so we filled it up. As it turned out, all the tires were under-inflated, even the ones that looked fine.

Then, one cold day I noticed a tire symbol on my dashboard. I thought it was the below-freezing warning light, but I read the manual, and it turned out my car was telling me my tire pressure was low. I have no idea how it knows that, but it was right (I believe my Prius is smarter than I am), so I pumped up my tires.

So check your tire pressure. Both cars are getting significantly better mileage after this simple effort!

Cold weather is a cause of lower tire pressure (and other other things that reduce mileage). (more…)

December 11, 2006

Prius Mileage: 25 MPG with Christmas Tree on Roof

Category: Fun,Household,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:18 am

Yes, you heard it here first: a Prius with only a modest sized, fresh cut tree maxes out at around 25 MPG at highway speeds.

As I drove along watching the average mileage in the mid to high 40’s get hammered, I was mortified (good thing we used Theresa’s Prius, not mine :-). But then, I realized that we were now getting the same mileage as … the average car. (more…)

July 21, 2006

Hybrids are Great For Highway (and City)

Category: Conservation,Save Fuel,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 6:11 pm

We have been frustrated several times recently hearing people say things about hybrids, like “they aren’t good for highway driving”. I think this is due to the fact that the EPA estimates for the Prius are higher in the city than the highway, which is unusual.

So, just to be clear, the fact that the Prius is rated at 55 Highway, 60 City should not lead you to conclude that it is “not good for the highway”. It’s not true. It was confusing, for example, to Click and Clack who perpetuated this growing myth (more…)

June 10, 2006

My Open Letter To Click and Clack

Category: Fun,Rants,Save Fuel,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 8:00 pm

In their radio show May 28th, the “Car Talk” hosts let me down. I felt compelled to write them this letter:

Boys (if I may address you formally),

I nearly lost control resulting from my hands being off the steering wheel as I listened to your show last week. You were counseling a woman on buying a car for her husband, and systematically ruled out a hybrid, in particular the Prius because it’s highway mileage was not as good as city. How can you look at yourselves in the mirror? (more…)

June 3, 2006

Thomas Friedman for President. Colbert for VP.

Category: Economics,Editorial,Political,Rants,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 12:52 am

Thank god for the liberal, East Cost, elite media.

If you haven’t yet seen the Stephen Colbert speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, stop what you’re doing, get ready, and then watch it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s shocking. In some places it’s really not funny at all. But it’s very, very real. And it demonstrates that sometimes, as in Shakespeare, only the fools speak the truth to the King.

And also, thank god for Thomas Friedman, whom I believe we should nominate for President of the World. I have read his current book The World is Flat, which is stunning in it’s equanimity and (what used to be) conservative positions. This man says globalization is … good. And that we should … embrace it. And that it is an … engine of economic opportunity. And that (those silly liberals who support) protectionist measures are bad. And he’s right. As I read the book, I wondered if he really was the same columnist I knew from the New York Times. Isn’t the Times, um, kinda liberal? And no, he’s not the token conservative Op Ed guy, either.

Well, all is right in the world now that (more…)